Collection apart, the silence helps them focus better

When doctoral student K. Sudhan was looking for readings on ‘Natrinai,' he found an audio recording of a relevant lecture there. “It was by Prof. Porko and I found it immensely useful,” says the student, a regular at the Braille section at the Anna Centenary Library (ACL) in Kotturpuram.

“It is the only public library in the city with a good Braille section,” he adds.

Pursuing his PhD in classical Tamil literature, he takes 21G bus from Kamaraj Salai and gets off at Kotturpuram to spend at least five to six hours there everyday, reading, listening and recording. “Students like us cannot take down notes fast, so we prefer recording portions from the audio content made available here.”

Many students and researchers with visual impairment frequent this section, not only because the collection is good, but also because the silence helps them focus better. “We are sensitive to even the slightest sound. But in this section, it is very quiet and in such an ambience we can read for hours together,” adds Sudhan.

As many as 90 Presidency College students with visual impairment are among the frequent users. According to sources, the section has over 5,000 e-books, nearly 2,000 audio books and 1,500 books in Braille. Users point to the fast-growing collection. Most visitors, primarily students, visit the section on a daily basis. In fact, some students have even added some books and readings from their collection to that of the section, creating a common pool of resources for students with visual impairment.

S. Pandiaraj, currently doing his M.Ed, says the NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA), a free, open source, portable screen reader installed in systems in the section allows students to have text translated to speech.

“A good number of general knowledge, literature and history books have been downloaded. Biographies of great leaders are also available. Moreover, the staffs are very helpful. If we need something in particular, they try their best to source it for us,” he says.

Adding to the collection of books in Braille will draw more school students, visitors note. Most students largely use Braille while in school and it is only in higher classes or college that they get familiar with computers and software specifically developed for persons with visual impairment. “As of now, more college students come,” says Pandiaraj, who loves reading Jayakanthan with his text-to-speech software.

Some students who met here have started an e-group (brailleacl) where they share information and resources and discuss ways of enhancing the collection further.

Obviously saddened at the government's recent announcement to shift the library, a student says: “If I go to any other library, I take a reader along. Here, I feel independent. From the railing leading to the Braille section to the sensitivity of the staff, everything about the place is reassuring.”